Dereham Theatre Company (formerly Dereham Operatic Society) is a charitable Trust and was formed in 1948 to offer the local community education and enlightenment in amateur dramatic arts. A very grand way of saying that we were formed to entertain the people of Dereham and Norfolk!
Our Shakespearian motto “Mere folk who give distraction are we” comes from Cole Porter’s musical “Kiss Me Kate”, which we first performed in 1970, and is based upon one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays “The Taming of the Shrew”.
We stage three productions a year (not including the productions of our youth group) including a major musical in the autumn, a pantomime over the Christmas period and a play in the spring. There is something for everyone!
If you are looking to join one of the premier operatic and dramatic societies in Norfolk as either a performer (we actively encourage all whatever your ability or experience, whether you are a singer, an actor, dancer, or just enjoy being on stage), backstage helper, front of house staff or just looking to purchase some tickets for our next show .
The staging, production and vocals of this talented ensemble shout professionalism at its best and a packed audience on opening night made sure the cast and crew knew how much their hard work had paid off with whoops and cheers after every song.
The story itself needs little explanation. Charting the final days of Jesus Christ, his betrayal by Judas and subsequent trial and crucifixion the show brings all the emotion and turmoil of the biblical events to the fore.
Powerful voices from the lead characters filled the auditorium at Dereham’s Memorial Hall from the choral harmonies of the show’s most memorable title song to the sweet and gentle lyrics of Mary Magdalene (Genevieve Plunkett) singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him. Nobody missed a beat or a note throughout.
It was hard to believe this was Michael Stoker’s theatrical debut as he performed the lead role of Jesus of Nazareth with confidence and style and the beautifully crafted crucifixion scene was both memerising and distressing in equal measure.
Elliot Hunter played his troubled apostle Judas with such drama pushing himself to the limits to produce a performance of exhausting emotion while Chris Dilley as Pontius Pilate and Lewis Aves as apostle Peter showcased equally strong vocal performances. Tony Wilds as Caiaphas and Laura Marvell James as Annas with their stunning facial make up were convincingly menacing as the plotters of Jesus’ downfall.
Having never seen the show before I wasn’t sure if the Herod character was supposed to be quite so camp but Paul Allum, who is well known for playing the dame in the company’s Christmas panto, brought a much needed dose of laughter to the performance with his portrayal of the flamboyant King. His costume is a sight for sore eyes!
It is a captivating show from start to finish with a huge cast who use every inch and height of the cleverly crafted stage. Hats off to director John McInnes, musical director Helen Cowie and choreographer Jodie Quirke.
If you want to spend two or three times the amount to go to the West End or see a professional touring company perform this musical then there is always the opportunity to do so. But there really is no need when such a stunning show is right here on our doorstep. ”
Review by Stephen P. Hayter, NODA Regional Representative Area 4 North, October 6th 2015
“It has long been my suspicion that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is just too difficult for amateurs. The singing is extraordinarily complex across a very wide range of parts and acting without dialogue is not something everyone can do. I have seen some really good singers struggle with the rock style and I have also seen that same singing degenerate into shouting to music, which is just not good enough for an iconic piece such as this. So, in short, it was with a very, very large amount of apprehension that I made my way to the wonderful Memorial Hall, Dereham for the Dereham Theatre Company’s 2015 musical production.
It is always such an honour to deputise for local NODA rep, Sue Dupont, and the welcome here is as good as anywhere I have been, even if Colin had forgotten the keys to the bar and had rushed off home to retrieve them! This was Mr Rice and Lord Lloyd Webber’s second completed work and their first success and I have never been more certain that the story of the last days of Christ needs no retelling from me.
The very first thing to say was the set (Scenic Projects) was breath taking! A very grand affair with superb lighting (Emotive Sound Light) and a vast selection of misting and smoke effects that always seemed to be, and stay, in exactly the right place. I remember thinking this must be in with a shout for the Area 5 Best Technical Award for that achievement alone. Costumes (design by Michele Blanks and Katharine Lennox) were fine although I had been alerted to a late sixties early seventies flower power motif, which did seem to be a little diluted as the show progressed, giving in to some obviously Roman clothing and the usual smattering of militaria that always seems to form a part of this title. Judas seemed most at ease with his apparel with the white/black (good/evil) underscore. Make up (Sophie Blanks) did everything it needed to and incidental hair and wigs (Sophie Blanks assisted on the wigs by Elly Haylock) were really a bit special. The incredible red ringlets of Mary Magdalene were inspirational and aside from lifting the profile of the character gave her a empowerment that helped her all but steal the show.
The chorus ( lepers, prostitutes, followers ,soldiers, merchants and priests) were all enthusiastic and in the right places at the right times with choreography that allowed for sufficient movement, whilst containing plenty of familiar moves. They sang well, and just for a change that included the male ensemble (Disciples take a bow) with a superb harmony in “The Last Supper” that was just beautiful. It was a large group as well which was needed to support such a spectacular set and I take my hat off to Director, Musical Director and Choreographer for such a well drilled team.
In the supporting roles I enjoyed Laura Marvell James as Annas (a part that seems to be performed by a female as often as not), Andy Lofthouse as Simon Zealotes and Tony Wilds as the manipulating Caiaphas. I was also extremely impressed with Lewis Aves as Peter who struggled at first but by the time he got to “Could We Start Again Please?” his brilliant singing voice was bang on the money making this song (with Mary) the showstopper it always seems to be. In a similar vein, outstanding Chris Dilley as Pontius Pilate seemed ill at ease with “Pilates Dream” but when he got to “Trial Before Pilate/39 Lashes” I was captivated. An incredible singing voice and an acting performance that actually was the best in this production. The agony and torment in the position he found himself were conveyed with complete assurance.
In such a dark story (you know how it ends) a little comic relief even of the black type is always welcome, and the very camp Herod, beautifully played by Paul Allum, delivered all the laughs you were going to get.
It would be disingenuous to pretend that all the notes were hit at all the right times and that syncing with the band did not stray from time to time but I remind you of my opening remarks. This show is difficult to sing and just as difficult to act and any criticisms no matter how minor have to be balanced against that statement. I liked Michael Stoker as Jesus, but as usual I did find him a little sulky, and, as with every other production I have viewed, a little violent. The throwing over of the table in the temple is well documented but the shoving (with Judas most notably) just seemed out of character at least to me. Mr Stoker had a mighty stage presence and worked hard to get through a large amount of singing with his voice showing the strain towards the end. I thought his best work was during the crucifixion scene, where the carrying of the cross and the spectacular raising of it with him in place had me close to tears.
Perhaps the most difficult of all the parts is that of Judas. Long, complicated songs and a mixed grill of emotions to convey and Elliott Hunter was just superb. He also took a while to settle with the singing, but as the second half rolled out he just got better and better. In addition, I have to say he looked good and moved well, making it difficult to take your eyes off him at any time. However, beautiful Genevieve Plunkett as Mary Magdalene managed to steal every scene she took part in and I know a lot of people think it is the easiest of the lead parts . performing to such a high standard as she did is never easy. The crazy red wig was a brilliant tool to raise her profile, and her costume and movement would have been enough, but she also had the voice of an Angel. “Everything’s Alright”, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Could We Start Again Please?” were all close to perfection as she nailed one crowd pleaser after another. Her CV suggests she is a Gilbert and Sullivan fan ; well this was as far from G and S and you can get!
I had a pretty good idea where penultimate paragraph honours were going before the first note was sung and although Genevieve Plunkett, Elliot Hunter and Chris Dilley were all in the frame I award them to the set, lighting and effects. Outstanding!
My compliments to Director, John McInnes, this was the best version of this show I have seen and with the level of difficulty so high he should be very proud of his achievement. Some nice directorial touches I had not seen before included the tormenting lead guitarist who came on stage three times when Judas was in turmoil, which, (thanks to great reactions from Elliott Hunter) really amplified the internal struggle he was going through. My hat is also off to Musical Director Helen Crowe (Assisted by Dave Cowie) and the 10 (correct me if I am wrong) piece band who did a great job. General criticisms are few. I struggled to hear some of the lyrics but the overall volume of the orchestra was not too loud. This, combined with some of the timing issues, made me wonder if the cast could hear well enough or if the balance was not quite right yet. However, when you are talking about a show this difficult it seems unfair to offer even these minor dissatisfactions.”